Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cold Day at Lowes


On the first truly cold day of winter we walked to the car and climbed inside. The straps of the car seat were so tight against all your layers - they pushed your puffy coat up over your mouth and your arms stuck out at your sides. Your hat slipped down over your eyebrows. It reminded me of lifeguard training, when we practiced strapping people down on spinal boards. You looked completely immobilized.

It was the same temperature inside the car as outside, except it felt worse because we were just sitting there. I put on the radio and drove down the block. At the red lights I tried to teach you how to make steam clouds with your breath. I think you were getting the idea, but the coat made it hard to see your progress.

"Go Lowes?" you said. You recognized the turns.

"Yep." I said.

"Train come?" you said.

"Maybe." I said. You think I control the F train the same way I control when we go outside and whether or not we eat red soup for lunch. I can't convince you otherwise.

At Lowes we parked in the back of the lot, where we have a clear view of the elevated tracks. The F train isn't all that reliable, but it runs above ground for two stops, up over the Gowanus Canal before it slips back underground and goes all the way to Coney Island. We got out of the car and walked to the edge of the Gowanus. Across the canal there's a scrap metal yard where cranes move piles of twisted metal onto a barge. It's hard to capture the drama and operatics of the magnetic crane, flinging junk through the air, and my fingers were too frozen to operate the camera. The barge was already full, so we watched the cranes move stuff from one pile to another. It looks random, like maybe they are doing it just for fun. Later I found this video online - it's our scrap metal yard in 2008:

The Lowes parking lot is the perfect place for boys. I'm always surprised there aren't more kids here. Whatever the reason, we always have the place to ourselves. Except for that first cold cold day. Some Scandinavian-looking guy with neon orange sunglasses and a real serious camera showed up. It was his first time here - he'd been kicked out of the actual yard earlier, and across the canal, one of the men on the barge was pointing at him. I shared all the information I had - if he wanted to see them load the barge he'd better get here early, 8AM was best. They tend to use the magnetic crane closer to lunch time. Noon to 3 is your nap time, so who knows what happens then. In the afternoons, there's an old apologetic man who practices his trombone.

Eventually you started whining - the tip of your nose and your cheeks were bright red and your lips were chapped from the wind. I picked you up and was carrying you back to the car when we finally heard the F train rumbling. "Train coming!" you shouted, and I held you up high. We stood shivering and watched it pass. As soon as it was out of sight you said, "train come again?" And I told you no, that the F train wouldn't come again until Spring.

I think you believed me.

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